ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, along with other party workers, on Wednesday reached Islamabad after PTI workers and supporters made their way towards the federal capital, pushing aside containers and braved tear gas shelling.
A large number of party workers and supporters are present at Islamabad toll plaza to welcome their leader.
“The workers present at D-Chowk wait for me… I am bringing a sea of people there,” Khan announced atop his container.
Khan earlier in the evening said that his long march had entered Punjab and heading towards Islamabad.
“No amount of state oppression and fascism by this imported govt can stop or deter our march,” the former premier wrote on his official Twitter handle.
The PTI chief in a fresh statement to his supporters this evening asked them to take to the streets following the top court’s verdict regarding the venue of the political gathering.
“I urge the entire nation to take to the streets with their families after the decision of the Supreme Court,” Imran said in a video statement released from an undisclosed location.
The former premier added that he was on his way to the famous D-Chowk and asked his supporters to come out of their homes to convey a message that they won’t accept anyone’s subservience.
Soon after Imran Khan’s call, a large number of PTI supporters started gathering at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk, chanting slogans against the government.
According to PTI, the police resorted to heavy shelling at Liberty where women and children were protesting peacefully.
Meanwhile, former state minister Zartaj Gul urged PTI supporters to assemble at Islamabad’s D-Chowk.
Choking on smoke from an onslaught of shelling and tear gas, Gul emphasised that if PTI supporters do not come to D-Chowk “they will regret it for the rest of their lives”.
Soon after Imran Khan’s announcement that he will reach Islamabad’s D-Chowk soon, the Capital Police vowed to stop anyone from entering the federal capital’s Red Zone.
“If anyone tried to come near the Red Zone, he will be dealt with an iron hand,” Islamabad IG Dr Akber Nasir said.
Akber said that he has asked the officers not to use force in other areas of the capital. He also appealed to the protesters not to damage public property and remain peaceful.
PTI workers also allegedly set fire to trees and green belt in Blue Area of the federal capital.
Earlier, the PTI chairman had denied rumours of a deal with the government and said “absolutely not” to any such prospects. He added the party leadership was not moving toward the federal capital.
“We will remain in Islamabad till the announcement of dates for dissolution of assemblies and elections are given.” He further urged the people of the twin cities to join PTI’s march.
Imran earlier arrived at Wali interchange in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and later left for Islamabad. Other party leaders departed for the federal capital from their respective areas.
Speaking to charged party supporters in Swabi, he told his supporters that they will go to Islamabad’s D-Chowk and “no one can stop us”.
Referring to the incumbent government as a “group of thieves”, the PTI chairman lamented that party supporters were being detained and harassed.
Imran said the government was afraid as they had been “plundering national wealth” for the last three decades. “Whatever they do, we will cross all blockades and reach D-Chowk.” The ousted premier added that the protest will be peaceful.
Maintaining that staging a protest was the party’s constitutional right, he added that he would unite the country and “make it a nation”.
“This country will not accept the imported government.”
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Punjab government spokesperson Atta Tarar said that section 144 has been imposed as the PTI wanted to disrupt peace in the country.
He said that a control room has been set up to monitor violence and police will take swift action against law violators.
Sindh Police and PTI workers clashed at Karachi’s busy intersection Numaish Chowrangi. The party workers torched a police van and removed all the hurdles created by the law enforcement agencies.
The police resorted to aerial firing and teargas shelling to disperse the protesters. However, the PTI workers responded by throwing stones at the law enforcers.
PTI Karachi’s President Bilal Ghaffar later staged a sit-in at the busy intersection. According to protesters, one person was injured due to the aerial firing of the police. The injured person has been shifted to a local hospital.
Police in Lahore and workers of PTI clashed earlier in the morning as the latter managed to push their way through the containers deployed at Batti Chowk by the government to stop the protesters from reaching Islamabad.
Law enforcers resorted to tear gas after PTI supporters tried to remove the containers placed on the routes exiting Lahore. PTI leaders Yasmin Rashid, Hammad Azhar, and Shafqat Mehmood were leading the workers. The party supporters, resultantly, hurled stones at the police.
At least 12 workers of the PTI were taken into custody by the police after the clashes. Former Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid was also stopped briefly by local law enforcement, with the party claiming that the police tried to “snatch her car keys”. A video of the incident shared on social media showed a purported PTI supporter resisting the arrest of the former minister.
Rashid in a statement, also said the windshield of her vehicle was broken by police. She said that she faced difficulty in leaving the area, but is now on her way to Islamabad.
“This government has lost its senses. I am an 80-year-old woman. Why are they threatened of me? How is stopping a peaceful protest democratic?”
Rashid added that despite everything, the enthusiasm of the workers was better than ever.
The former health minister was later briefly detained along with senior party Andalib Abbas in the area of Ravi road while they were taking refuge in a camp. Both PTI leaders chanted slogans against the government during the arrest and were later released.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said party supporters on the Jhelum and Azad Kashmir border were continuing to skirmish with police officials and the bridge has been blocked with containers.